5 Essential Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business Owners

Author: 
 Updated: 
January 8, 2021
 / 5 minutes

Cyberattacks and data breaches are every business owner’s worst nightmare. They put valuable business data and client information at risk. Worse still, they adversely affect customer trust and brand reputation and could drive your loyal customers away.

Also, recuperating from a cyberattack can cause heavy financial losses. You might even have to compensate your customers and employees for jeopardizing their safety. Ultimately, this takes a huge toll on your business revenue and growth.

When you think of recent cyberattacks and breaches, renowned brands, such as Yahoo, Target, and Sony will immediately come to your mind. This often creates an illusion that cybercriminals only eye big and established business. However, the reality is far from it.

To begin with, 71% of cyberattacks typically occur at companies with a workforce of 100 or less. Also, latest reports suggest that 43% of data breaches affect small businesses. The sad part is that 60% of small businesses that are targeted by cybercriminals shut down within six months of a major attack.

What Puts Small Businesses at Risk?

The data clearly points that small businesses and startups are just as susceptible to cyberattacks as large conglomerates. The biggest risk factor for small businesses is that they often don’t have dedicated IT & cybersecurity personnel.

Also, many startups recruit remotely stationed employees who work from their homes using their personal devices. This has become even more prevalent due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, it means you’ll likely be exchanging sensitive business data over networks that aren’t particularly secure.

As a small business owner, you may not even have adequate financial resources to deal with the aftermath of such attacks. Also, it can completely derail your brand building efforts and turn your potential customers away.

This can be devastating considering that small businesses strive hard to establish their reputation and credibility.

But, there’s a silver lining to it. Implementing a few powerful cybersecurity and data protection measures can safeguard your business from these attacks. In the following sections, we’ll discuss a few simple techniques you can use to amp up your cybersecurity game. Let’s get started.

1. Know the Potential Threats

Before you start developing proper cybersecurity protocols, you need to develop a solid understanding of the different types of cyberattacks you need to deal with. Typically, as a business owner, you should be ready to tackle the following:

  • Malware attacks
  • Phishing
  • Ransomware attacks
  • Data leaks
  • Malicious apps
  • Password attacks
  • Zero-day cyberattacks

It’s worth mentioning some of these threats can be caused by internal agents, including your employees. For instance, an employee working from home can accidentally (or intentionally) reveal sensitive information to third-parties.

2. Define a Cybersecurity Protocol

The best way to prepare your business for cyberattacks is to formulate a rock-solid cybersecurity protocol. From running background checks and onboarding new recruits to properly disposing unnecessary data – make sure you cover every detail.

You should also outline strict protocols for employees working remotely and/or on their personal devices. Likewise, you need to decide what access and privileges you want to grant to specific employees, including retired and terminated personnel.

It’s also a good idea to lay down the exact steps you’re planning to take to protect your business from various threats. If you can’t afford dedicated IT personnel, you should consult a cybersecurity expert at this stage.

Lastly, you need to define the steps your employees should follow if there’s a system breach or attack. Also, make sure you educate your employees about these protocols and provide them with adequate training to deal with such threats.

3. Backup Your Data

From employee records and customer information to sales reports and product prototypes – your business runs on a plethora of data. Imagining the consequence of a ransomware attack on such data will send chills down your spine. Apart from compromising your reputation, it can disrupt routine business operations.

An effective solution is to take regular backups of all sensitive data. Make sure this data is securely stored on an external server, away from your office’s wireless network. You can even schedule automatic backups to eliminate manual delays.

Also, it’s a good idea to restrict access to this data using strong passwords and encryption keys.

4. Encrypt Your Data

Protecting sensitive business data is an integral part of cybersecurity. From computers and tablets to wireless networks and POS systems – your data can be compromised with at various points. Even if you’re using a cloud storage service to store your data, it could still fall prey to breaches and leaks.

That’s why it is recommended that you implement end-to-end cloud encryption to protect your data at every stage. It ensures that only the end devices that need to use the data have access to it. All other external devices, including cloud servers, will only get the encrypted version of the data, thus preventing mishandling.

5. Protect Your Passwords

This is sort of a no-brainer. However, you’d be surprised to know that many people, likely including your employees, use the same or similar passwords for different applications. In doing so, they’re making the job of hackers even easier.

That’s why you need to establish a strict format for setting various system and application passwords. At the very least, every password should include a mix of alphanumeric characters and special symbols. Also, the password length needs to be 10 characters or more.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask your employees to keep a password manager handy. It’ll ensure that they don’t forget long and complicated passwords. Also, it’ll save them from the risk of manually writing their passwords on paper.

What cybersecurity measures are you using as an entrepreneur? Share your recommendations in the comments section below.

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